“My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, Where is your God?” Psalm 42:3
“Why are you cast down, O my inner self? And why should you moan over me and be disquieted within me? Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him, my Help and my God.” Psalm 42:5
I haven’t been sleeping much since Friday. I can’t stop grieving. I can’t stop thinking about the last horrifying moments of those innocent children’s lives. I can’t stop my stomach from churning… my eyes from tearing up at the thought of their sweet lives ripped away in an instant. I can’t stop thinking of the heart ache their parents are facing every second while I’m able to wrap my arms around my girls tonight. All day in my mind, I see the faces of 6 and 7 year-olds I have never met and all night I constantly check on my girls while they sleep.
Tonight I sat in Cammie’s room and just listened to her breathe. I put my head on her chest and heard the steady soft beating of her heart, remembering with extreme clarity the moment my doctor could first hear her heart beat before we even knew if she was going to be “Camdyn” or “Cole” and before I knew just how deep a mother’s love could be. Before she entered this broken world that feels infinitely darker tonight than it did this time last week. I smelled my baby’s head and kissed her face so many times that it made her stir in her sleep. I held her tiny 6 year-old hand and knelt by her bed as I prayed for wisdom and peace… begging the Lord to protect my girls and asking forgiveness for all the days and nights that I did not make praying for them a priority. I prayed that I would be the mother they deserved and that they would love Him with their whole being.
I repeated this prayer over Chloe while she lay in her comfy bed sleeping soundly. I imagined the parents who had tucked in their children only a few nights ago and now their beds were empty… the blankets cold with the absence of little warm bodies. My Chloe smiles and talks in her sleep. When I kissed her forehead and told her I loved her out loud, she faintly smiled. I want my girls to hear it even more now. Within days of finding out I was pregnant, Chloe had her name. I just knew she was a girl, so I called her “Chloe” throughout my entire pregnancy. I have loved her from the second I saw the “positive” pregnancy test. She was my dream come true, my first-born. She made me a mother and forever changed my life. She is an amazingly intelligent, loving and empathetic 8 year-old. How I love being her mother.
I can’t stop thinking of the mothers who have stories just like mine. They loved their children as I love my girls and those precious children are gone. I am writing here tonight to keep from banging my head against the wall screaming out to God in confusion and sadness. I am using writing as my form of therapy, but it’s not helping as much as I had hoped. With each passing day I am more dismayed at the world my girls are inheriting.
My pastor gave a message recently where he told the story of Beethoven’s struggle with his gradual deafness. When the deafness got worse, he sawed off the legs of his piano and would lie on the ground with his ears to the floor desperately banging the keys as hard as he could to try to feel something – a vibration… anything – so that he would know that the music was still there. He stayed as close to the instrument as possible even when he couldn’t hear it anymore. My pastor related this to when we are waiting on God, when we pray and pray and pray but we don’t hear Him or we don’t get the answer we were hoping for. When we feel like He has abandoned us, when his ways are hard to understand – that is when we must continue to cry out to him and pray ugly, raw prayers while we keep our ear to the ground… because He is still there. We must stay as close to the instrument as we can even when we can’t hear it. He is here in our midst – even though our world seems completely void of all light, even when a psychotic dictator has millions of innocent people sent to concentration camps and brutally murdered, even when planes fly into buildings and buildings fall from the sky, even when cancer and incurable diseases ravage our bodies, even when tornadoes, floods and hurricanes take out entire cities, and He is there when children and teachers are tragically gunned down in a place where they are supposed to be safe…
He was there. He held them close and whisked those children to safety… nestled within his arms. His ultimate protection is what keeps me from living in constant fear of this world.
I am at a loss, but I don’t want to become numb. I don’t want to live here anymore, but that cannot stop me from living. I don’t want to call this world my home, but for now it is. I just don’t have words for the ache anymore. My ear is pressed to the ground and I am frantically banging on the keys, God, because this hurts too much. It came too close to home for me. It could have easily been Cammie or Chloe and I can’t fathom that kind of agony in my life. We are all hurting right now and we need your comfort and peace. We just need you and the hope and restoration that only you can provide. Sometimes we can’t feel you, and we don’t understand. Sometimes your peace seems so far away but we are crying out to you… with ears to the ground.
I love reading scripture in different translations. As a child, I remember watching my mother do this during her daily Bible study with six different Bibles laid out in front of her on the kitchen table and her well-worn “Strong’s Concordance” (that weighed at least 50 lbs) to look up the meanings of words in the Greek and Hebrew. I remember thinking, “What is the difference? Isn’t a Bible a Bible? Why the need to study different translations?” Now I think I get it… especially when God brings a specific scripture to mind. When I read a verse or passage in several different translations, I understand it better. It creates a bigger picture. Like an artist with an endless palette of colors – different Biblical translations can highlight words, give personal meaning to phrases and reveal more detail.
As I lay in bed – homebound for the second week in a row, I was lamenting the time I feel has been wasted while living with Lyme Disease. I am so very weary of this illness. Sometimes I don’t even have the strength to take my pills. The symptoms are time-consuming. Research is time-consuming. Treatment is time-consuming. I am tired of constantly worrying about my time that disappears before my eyes. I have begged God to remove this disease from my body – completely – so that I won’t lose any more time. Life is too short and I have so much life to live. Before this disease settled into my bones, I had never experienced the mourning of time passing in this way. I felt overwhelmed with the days, hours and minutes this disease has eaten away… and with those words I was reminded of scripture. The words from Joel 2:25 came swiftly to my heart…
“I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter…” (ESV)
Here is the same scripture but in different translations of the Bible:
“And I will replace for you the years that the locust has eaten—the hopping locust, the stripping locust, and the crawling locust…” (Amplified)
“The LORD says, “I will give you back what you lost to the swarming locusts, the hopping locusts, the stripping locusts, and the cutting locusts.” (NLT)
“And I have recompensed to you the years the locust did consume, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmer-worm.” (YLT)
“I will compensate you for the years that the locusts have eaten, the creepy locusts, the stripping locusts and the cutting locusts…” (The Voice)
“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten–the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm–You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you” (NIV)
“I will pay you back for those years of trouble. Then you will have plenty to eat and be full. You will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has done miracles for you.” (NCV)
“I’ll make up for the years of the locust, the great locust devastation—Locusts savage, locusts deadly, fierce locusts, locusts of doom, You’ll eat your fill of good food. You’ll be full of praises to your God. The God who has set you back on your heels in wonder…You’ll know without question that I’m in the thick of life with Israel. That I’m your God, yes, your God, the one and only real God.” (The Message)
Not only will my God restore, repay, replace, give back and make up for the years I have lost, but the sight of His miracles and wonders will knock me over. I will be full of His praises. He is the thick of life. He is my God and He has promised to restore the years the locusts have eaten.
I am applying this verse to my life, but I think it can be applied to anyone who has experienced loss. Loss of time waiting for answers, loss of years lived in sin, loss spent living in fear, loss of having a heart full of bitterness and anger, loss of life living with depression or anxiety… the list could go on and on. I would encourage those who know these kind of losses to have faith that God will restore that time to you. He will make things right… I believe this with all of my heart. Even though I know these words were meant for the Israelites thousands of years ago, I know my Father used this verse in my life today to remind me of His promise. He’s got this. I have nothing to fear.
“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” Romans 15:4
Side note: I wrote this post Thursday morning after finally scheduling an appointment with a Lyme Literate doctor. I couldn’t get in until the end of April but there are many who have to travel around the world or cross-country just to see a doctor who is knowledgable about Lyme so I am thankful this doctor could get me in at all and is only a two-hour drive. The only reason we hadn’t done this until now was due to cost. Insurance doesn’t cover LLD’s and since we have already spent crazy amounts of money on treatments, I was hesitant about going out-of-pocket so much for one appointment. However, I am also desperate for a treatment that will help me longterm which is why I made the call. That evening, God gave me another reminder of his promise. Someone from our church anonymously gave me a letter with words of amazing encouragement and love. The letter also had money in it… with hopes that it would help me with Lyme in some way. It was enough money to pay for half of my appointment cost. When I received this letter, I hadn’t told anyone about the appointment or even that we were thinking about scheduling it… but God knew. The week before that, Ryan also received money anonymously at work. Together, these amounts will almost cover the cost of the appointment. I couldn’t stop crying after I received the letter. It is not only confirmation that I’m supposed to go to this appointment, but it is confirmation that God keeps his promises and He shows us His love through our brothers and sisters in Christ. Restore. Repay. Replace.
**Also, I was raised in a Southern home where I was taught to write thank you notes for everything. It is hard for me not to be able to thank these people for being Jesus in skin to me. So, I must thank you even though I don’t know if you will ever read this. If you are reading, please know that we feel incredibly blessed by your words and your outpouring of love on our family. You showed me the love of God and my heart is filled to overflowing. May you truly be blessed for the love you have shown us. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
One of my favorite books of all time very nearly wasn’t written. The year was 1956, and a 30 year-old woman named Nellie was feeling unfulfilled in her job as an airline reservations clerk. She had a passion for writing despite not having much time for it and many publishing rejections slips. That Christmas, good friends Michael and Joy Brown invited her over for dinner and on the Christmas tree was an envelope for her with a note inside.
The note said, “You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.”
The Browns loved her writing and they knew great things would come if she took a year and wrote a manuscript. They believed in her and gave her a priceless Christmas gift: time. She was given the time to pursue her passion. The Browns could never have predicted what would come from that selfless act.
Nelle (Nellie) Harper Lee quit her job at the airline and devoted herself to writing. Within a year she had a finished manuscript, and in 1960 her book was published. The gift that was given to the world from that year off is a masterpiece known as “To Kill A Mockingbird” – arguably the most influential piece of American literature ever written. There are 30 million copies in print and, after over 50 years, it remains a best seller.
I would say that the story of Harper Lee’s Christmas gift is one of my favorite stories of generosity. I can’t imagine if the Browns hadn’t given from their hearts. It wasn’t about the money. They simply believed in the talent of a friend so they wanted to bless her and inadvertently mankind benefited from this act of kindness. If it wasn’t for the Browns, “To Kill A Mockingbird” probably wouldn’t exist or, if it did, it would be a rough draft sitting in a drawer – possibly unfinished and unpublished.
This Christmas, I want to think outside the box. I want to give of myself the way the Browns gave to Harper Lee. I want to pour into my family and friends with a lasting gift of love, not something I got on clearance. I won’t be able to give someone a year’s salary this Christmas, but I can give relationally. I can use the resources that I do have to change a life for the better, and I can use my words to make a difference… and wasn’t that why Harper Lee wrote her book in the first place?
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” ~Atticus Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird
I keep getting these creative bursts lately and I’m powerless when “the force” takes over me. The latest one started when I found a unique lamp base for a steal at Target, (it was originally $50 marked down to $12.99!) So, obviously I bought it and remembered an old lamp shade that was in storage that I could use for the shade. I dusted it off and started thinking of ways to make it look better because it was white and boring. I had the idea to paint words like “hope” “love”, etc. all over the shade or maybe even an entire passage out of a favorite book but instead decided on quotes and book excerpts from my favorite women writers. I used a fine-point Sharpie marker for this project so it’s really simple – minus the hand cramps after an hour of writing! The options are limitless for this project idea. You could write just about anything – even in different colored ink which would look cute for a kids room with a simple base. Other ideas would be to use letter stamps or fabric markers instead of a Sharpie. This is definitely a conversation starter and my girls love to read it. I wish the shade had been bigger and a darker color, so I may have to try this again! It doesn’t look perfect but I think that is what adds to its charm. Lamp shades + Literature = Awesome. Who knew?